The Meaning of Memorial Day

The meaning of Memorial Day is simply stated here:

"Give thanks to those who defend democracy -
for they bear the gift of liberty and pay the price of freedom."

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The meaning of Memorial Day is remembering and honoring the brave men and women in the U.S. military. They have paid the highest price possible in order to protect our freedoms and liberties as Americans.

In the beginning, it was called Decoration Day. This was because citizens decorated the tombs of fallen Union soldiers from the Civil War, in remembrance of their great sacrifice.

Read The Gettysburg Address.

And even though the name “Memorial Day” was used as far back as the 1880s, it did not become the official name until a federal law was passed in 1967. Since 1968, this holiday has been observed on the last Monday of May.

Traditional observances are marked by parades, often including veterans, with bands playing patriotic songs. They eventually lead to cemeteries. There, American flags can be found at the grave sites of veterans who have passed away, speeches and prayers are heard, and military gun salutes provide finales. All of this – in honor of those who have protected us.

At one of the best known cemeteries, Arlington National Cemetery, American flags are placed on the more than 260,000 gravestones by soldiers of the 3rd US Infantry. This act of respect is done each year on the Thursday before Memorial Day.

In May of 2003, President Clinton asked for a National Moment of Remembrance, stating in part:

"As Memorial Day approaches, it is time to pause and consider the true meaning of ... Memorial Day...honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to securing our Nation's freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day...I hereby direct all executive departments and agencies ... to promote a "National Moment of Remembrance"
to occur at 3 p.m. on each Memorial Day..."
The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, "Memorandum on the White House Program for the National Moment of Remembrance,
May 2, 2000

Veterans of Foreign Wars also sell poppies leading up to this day. The poppy is a red flower symbolizing fallen soldiers, as a result of John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields. Following the publication of this poem in 1915, a professor by the name of Moina Michael was so inspired by McCrae’s poem that she wrote her own poem, We Shall Keep the Faith, and vowed to always wear a red poppy in remembrance of those who served in war.

Other traditional activities taking place on this holiday are family barbecues, sporting events such as the Indianapolis 500, and concerts. One such concert is the National Memorial Day Concert which takes place on the west lawn of the U.S. Capitol and can be viewed on television.

No matter what your plans are for this holiday, take a moment to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the sacrifices of brave American men and women. And if you happen upon a veteran, thank him or her as well. Through these many years, they have given us much!

And, please take a moment to read Freedom Is Not Free, a poem written by Kelly Strong in honor of his father, who was a Vietnam veteran.

God Bless America!

Share Your Memorial Day Poems

On this special day for remembering and honoring all those Americans who gave so much, take a moment to share a poem or your thoughts and words. You can remain anonymous, and you never know - you may bring peace, joy, comfort, or pride to a veteran.

What Other Visitors Have Said

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Now That I Know My Granddad Was There Not rated yet
With solemn reverence we remember that serene Hawaiian morning So brutally interrupted without any warning By that bellicose rising sun with murderous …

WARS END Not rated yet
The Troops are coming home They say the war is over. Could this be their lucky day? Is this their four leaf clover? Give praise to all those Soldiers. …

A Memorial Day Poem Not rated yet
Today we honor all of you, Who served your country with pride, You risked your life for all of us, As you fought side by side. Your strength …

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